student work through the program,
using the same pre- and posttests.
At first, I was disappointed because
I didn’t see any statistical change on
the Woodcock-Johnson tests, but
the student retook his ACTs and
scored a 30 in reading—a 9-point
gain. The only intervention had been
the intensive cognitive development
program. As we discussed the situation, we concluded that this was a
student with strong cognitive skills,
but those skills were compartmentalized. The cognitive development
program helped him integrate those
skills at an efficient and automatic
level, which enabled him to perform
on the ACT.
Although certain students stand
out, the pattern has been consistent.
Every student who has been through
the cognitive-skills development
program has improved his or her performance. Struggling students, gifted
students, and students in between
have improved their ability to think
and to learn.
Choosing a Program
Harbor Beach’s experience has convinced us that several success factors
are key in choosing a neuroscience-based skills development program.
The program must be engaging and
motivating. Brains that aren’t engaged
won’t learn. Brain training is hard
work, but delivering it in a video-game format provides the extrinsic
and intrinsic rewards that keep students coming back for more.
The program must be comprehensive
and integrated. Mental processing skills
are interconnected and have to work
together. Drilling individual skills is of
little use, because that isn’t how they’re
used when we engage in reading,
thinking, and problem solving.
eager and enthusiastic, and the games
are relatively easy. As the tasks become more difficult, some students
see their success slow down, and
their motivation falls off. We call this
point in the program “hitting the
wall.” This is not a program where
you can just sit kids down in front of
the computer and let them have at it.
They need to have a teacher monitor them and give them suggestions
about how to remember something
or how to complete the task. Sometimes, they just need encouraging
words. In all honesty, this is the only
drawback we’ve found.
It sounds too good to be true, but
it really works. We have been amazed
at the improvement in our students
at all levels. If you believe that our job
as educators is to help students become the best and strongest thinkers
and problem solvers they can be, to
make learning fun and engaging, and
to give students the skills they need
to live in a world with challenges we
can’t yet imagine, then the benefit of a
cognitive-skills development program
is immeasurable. Using video games
to build skills can address the unique
needs of students and enable them to
come to the experience of learning
with the foundation they need for success in school and beyond.
Considering the Drawbacks
The only drawbacks we have found
lie with the motivation of the students. In the beginning, they are
Curtis Boehmer is a teacher of students with speech and lan- guage impairments in the Huron Intermediate School District in Michigan, where he’s worked for 30 years. He has a bachelor’s degree from
the University of Texas, Dallas, and a master’s
degree in education leadership from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan.
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